When I was a lad in high school I had an English teacher who was a bit of a hippie. Dressed in his faded paisley shirt, flairs and sandals our tutor would sometimes bring along his own records in a corduroy shoulder bag to our lessons for our ‘appreciation’. He’d always start the ‘appreciation lesson’ with him popping outside for a quick ‘cigarette’.
He would then return and we’d all sit in silence and just listen for 40 minutes. He treated us to the BBC Radio versions of Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy”.
I loved listening to it in class. Mainly because it was far more enjoyable than actually working but for me what really put it on the ‘cool’ map were Douglas Adams’ references to Pink Floyd. It’s said that he came up with his fictional idea of the loudest band in the universe, called “Disaster Area”, after seeing a Pink Floyd concert. His story tells of a Disaster Area concert that was so loud that it caused a spaceship to crash into the sun. People also speculate that the idea came from the Pink Floyd song “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” which is coincidentally the name of our tour this year. We are focusing on celebrating three albums. Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Division Bell. The latter also has particular significance to Mr. Douglas Adams.
He and David Gilmour were old friends and for Douglas Adams’ 42nd birthday he got to play guitar for Pink Floyd at their Earls Court concert on October 28th 1994. He played on the songs “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse” from Dark Side Of The Moon. It was a special birthday gift due to the significance of the number 42 being the answer to life, the universe and everything…. and it was from his good friend David Gilmour.
Around the same time, David Gilmour asked Douglas Adams to help him name a Pink Floyd album they were working on. He did, and 20 years ago in 1994 Pink Floyd released The Division Bell.
To thank him, David Gilmour contributed to Douglas Adams’ favourite charity the sum of £5000, which coincidentally is exactly what it cost for us to come and play at our first ever booking in the UK in 1993 at the “Brain Damage Magazine International Pink Floyd Fan Convention” at Wembley. One thing I remember clearly about that show was the amount of lighting equipment and visual effects that the organizer Glenn Povey had brought in. We hadn’t seen a lot of the equipment in action before and at the time it was the biggest production we had ever used.
It was also our first insight into the strange world of “Lighting Engineers”.
Cloned in a laboratory on Tracy Island these life forms have been placed throughout the world in every venue in every town so that no matter where we play they are always there to control us with their light beams. Their behaviour is identical regardless of what country they reside in but unlike mice and sperm whales there is an easy way to tell them apart… their gadgets.
Let There Be More Light….
Our LD (Lighting Designer) Phil White has worked with us for 10 years now. Originally from High Wycombe in the UK, Phil designs and controls our lighting rig and has a reputation of being quite a gadgeteer, so much so that I need to cover his offerings in at least two blogs. I’m focusing on Phil’s favourite work gadgets this week.
First up is the Samsung ‘all in one’ DP700a touch screen computer. Boasting a 23.6 inch screen the DP700a Phil uses comes with an i3 3220 processor, 4Gb of Ram and a 1Tb hard drive all built into the slim screen housing.
Phil has been using it for two years now. He controls some of the video projections we use in the show with it and finds the ease of the touch screen far better than a traditional mouse and keyboard setup. “It’s a bit like a giant iPad but much more powerful”, according to Phil.
The latest model costs around £800 and has an i5 processor, 1Tb hard drive, 6Gb of Ram and a HDMI input. Apart from the touch screen it also responds to your hand gestures from up to 1 metre away.
The DP700a Phil uses is synced with our video projections, lights and lasers via ‘Midi Time Code’. Midi Time Code (MTC) is a universal electronic language that enables different types of equipment to be told when to do things from a single source. Like a conductor does with an orchestra, he or she doesn’t actually play any of the instruments, they just guide the musicians.
Employing MTC ensures that the lights, video and lasers can all operate simultaneously whenever required enabling us to achieve far more complex and precise visual effects for the show that will hopefully improve the overall experience for our audience.
Phil’s next gadget is like a Swiss Army Knife for Midi Time Code.
The Rosendahl Mif4 is an extremely stable midi time code display and hub so it can distribute the midi time code it receives to other equipment. It can also generate midi time code itself. This feature makes Phil’s job of programming the lights easier and quicker as he doesn’t need our video department to send him time code when he’s creating new lighting scenes for the show. The Mif4 costs around £460. Phil got quite excited about his Mif4 and I’m sure it’s very important but when looking at those digits all I could think of was my last visit to London and the taxi fare.
Phil also insisted on mentioning his ‘Mophie iPhone cover’ with built in battery and memory that can double the battery life and even triple the phone’s memory. Prices are from £50 to £140 depending on the iPhone model and the capacity required.
In next week’s Gadgets for Giggers we’ll be looking at some more fun oriented gadgets that require less ‘Deep Thought’. Until then, so long, and thanks for all the fish!